When onsens are mentioned, fonder, simpler, virus-free memories come to mind. I had my first go at a hot spring during my trip to Taipei in 2017, and again indulged in full dipping pleasure in Kobe, Japan in an outdoor onsen that easily made me feel like royalty on a dewy spring morning. Following the serious lack of onsen representation in sunny Singapore, it’s a wave of relief that places such as Yunomori Onsen and now, Joya Onsen Cafe, are here to show Singaporeans that super soakers don’t just have to mean kids’ toys.
Those who read my piece on Yunomori Onsen will know what a fetching time I had at what I’d like to term with my favourite oxymoron—a straight up relaxation playground. I remember it as the day I’d just taken over the mantle of Social Media lead in the company; when I was just an absolute cesspit of stress, and so visiting the onsen on company time (and dime) was guilt-laden, yet timely.
With the bar already set this high, I must admit that the pressure is on for Joya Onsen to deliver. As it is, it being located in the thick of Joo Koon, right opposite SAFTI, already sets it back a couple of points. So in the midst of my disorientation, I’m clutching onto the hope that there are redeeming factors worth closing an eye to this for.
First look at the space
Slipping past the bare front of the country club it’s housed in, Joya’s Japanese bathhouse-inspired facade comes into view. The front of house area isn’t a grand gesture, but I always say you don’t need very much to have a good time.
Two heated, gender-segregated public baths await inside, but first you’ll find yourself passing through a cafe area that stays true to the Japanese teahouse theme—we’ll get back to the fare later.
Those already acquainted with onsen etiquette will remember the walk of shame; stripping down to their birthday suits, and shuffling quickly through into the bath area, desperate to submerge themselves as deep into the water as possible until all nakedness is buried under whatever the illusion can cover.
But the walk of shame doesn’t have to be. Lucky for us in Singapore, most onsen places offer disposable undergarments to tide you through. Most of them are half see-through anyway, but we’ll take what we can get. Or, if baring it all doesn’t bother you one bit, then go forth and be a queen, I say.
While the changing areas and onsens are gender-segregated, there’s only one lonesome washroom located outside the changing rooms, and is shared by all. While it wasn’t much of a hassle for us considering that we were the only ones there during the media preview, it might be a different story when you’re trying to hold it in all while waiting for the long line of others in front of you. Adding just a couple of stalls within each changing area would do wonders for the experience in my opinion, but I also understand that adding extra toilets is way more than just a matter of simple renovations.
While the public bath area is decorated to the theme—leaves peaking out from behind the pillars, pebbled perimeters, and tiny Japanese structures here and there—it’s still hard to see past the “heated swimming pool” facade of it all. There are plans in place for seasonal tea bags to be soaked alongside the humans, so that should solve the privacy conundrum of overly clear waters as well as aid in the overall ambience of the place.
Washing bays skirt the edge of the main bath space and it’s also basic onsen etiquette to have a rinse before dipping into the baths due to hygiene reasons. For those who’d like a little sweat (and also if the heated bath wasn’t steaming enough for you), there’s a sauna area for you to really work those pores and get the most out of your entry ticket.
The two private bath rooms are located away from the main area and include a small dipping area, showering area, and shoe rack for your footwear and belongings. The space is good for an intimate party of two (S$120), and a maximum of five (S$200), with tiered pricing for group sizes in between as well.
Some might argue that one of the best parts of spending your day in an onsen is the excuse to lounge about in yukatas all day, and I absolutely will not refute that. Being able to strut around in loosely-clad traditional Japanese wear and not stick out like a sore thumb is a rare privilege that I cherish at onsen spas.
The public onsen pass goes at S$38 for adults if you’re simply there for the dip, and S$45 for access to the public bath as well as some post-soaking refreshments. Refreshments, which are enjoyed in the snug cafe area, come by way of a small sushi platter, a beverage, and a scoop of ice cream.
I’m served the Futo Maki & Aburi Salmon (as far as I’m concerned, always choose the aburi), Strawberry Condensed Milk Ice Cream, and a glass of Refreshment Milk which, I’ve learnt from my time at Yunomori, is a common post-onsen beverage choice for those in the +81. While this platter won’t exactly fill you up (I needed a second dinner afterward), it’s a good place to start if you’re looking for something to fill you up in between soaks.
Facilities aren’t aplenty here at Joya, but if you’re happy with cycling between munching and soaking, then perhaps it’s all you’ll need.
Between the new relaxation options popping up around our island, perhaps Joya is still just a little too out of reach for this Eastie, and neither was there anything extremely compelling to draw me back for a second visit.
Though, for those who live around the area, you’ll be happy to have Joya in your corner, ready to receive you with open arms whenever you just need to check out for the day.
Expected damage: S$38 – S$60 per adult
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Price: $ $
Our Rating: 2 / 5
Joya Onsen Cafe
511 Upper Jurong Road, Singapore 638366
Joya Onsen Cafe
511 Upper Jurong Road, Singapore 638366